The JP McManus Fund recently announced details of its intention to provide much needed funding to the Certificate in General Learning and Personal Development (CGLPD) programme at Mary Immaculate College (MIC) Limerick.
The CGLPD programme, which has been in existence in the College since 2013, has as its main aim to enhance the quality of life of young adults with intellectual disabilities by providing third level opportunities. MIC, the only provider of teacher education in the country to offer this accredited programme, receives no public funding towards the programme as current national policy has yet to recognise that adults with intellectual disabilities are entitled to study at a higher education campus.
Anne O’Byrne, Lecturer in Inclusive Education, MIC, first investigated the possibility of hosting this programme at MIC in 2009 as according to her “Traditionally, young adults with intellectual disabilities have not been given the opportunity to participate in third level education. While third level education is a valuable pursuit for young adults in society, it has not generally been afforded to this group, who historically have occupied marginalised identities. A third level education experience allows students to develop and mature in an educational and social context and assists with future employment prospects”.
The two year programme is devoted to the academic learning, personal growth and career development prospects of the student whereby the full development of each student’s potential, dignity and self-worth is embraced. The programme, according to Prof. Michael A Hayes, President of MIC; “is an example of what can be accomplished by thinking ‘outside of the box’. This initiative represents a radical reconceptualisation of third level education. Mary Immaculate College has been to the forefront of the development of inclusive practice at preschool, primary and post primary levels and this initiative represents an opportunity to apply those values, skills and attitudes to our own third level setting”.
While the programme in CGLPD programme has direct benefits for the students enrolled on the programme, there are also many benefits for the students’ peers and the larger student body at MIC. According to Prof. Teresa O’Doherty, Dean of Education, MIC, this programme has potential for far greater impact than would be possible on other campuses as it is situated within a Faculty of Education which is home to 1400 pre-service teachers and 300 early childhood educators. “The exposure and engagement of MIC’s total student body to the programme will have ramifications for approaches and attitudes to the inclusion of young children within Irish schools and crèches nationally” she said. “As teacher education providers we need to challenge all our students to be advocates for inclusion, we need to enable them to view inclusion as a normal way of working each and every day. Equity and equality must motivate our work and theirs in the classroom, and they need to be prepared adequately to live out their commitment to inclusion within schools”.
According to Prof. O’Doherty international research has shown that one of the greatest barriers to successful inclusion is the attitude of teachers. “Teachers need to have positive attitudes, tolerance and understanding of inclusion and diversity. They need to be convinced of the benefits of inclusion and develop a sense of responsibility for all learners. The continued provision of the CGLPD programme on the MIC campus will have a cascading impact on the schools and early childhood settings in which they will ultimately work”.
Speaking on her hopes for the programme Anne O’Byrne said “We at Mary Immaculate College believe that this programme will increase access to work life experiences as well as nurturing educational and social outcomes for students with intellectual disabilities and further extend their personal capacity to become self-determining human beings. My hope is that this programme will cause us all to reflect on the dignity of the person, what it is to be human, and to accept, quite simply, that who we are is enough”.
The JP McManus Benevolent Fund supports local community initiatives and non-profit organisations throughout the Mid-West of Ireland. To date it has awarded an impressive €11,367,667 to community, healthcare, local infrastructure and education development projects. Prof. Hayes, paid tribute to the JP McManus Benevolent Fund saying “We are indebted to the JP McManus Benevolent Fund for their generous funding of €200,000 towards this programme, ensuring its future for the next four years. MIC’s Mission Statement commits ‘to promote equity in society and to provide an environment where all have freedom and opportunity to achieve their full potential’. This funding further enables us to deliver on our commitment to inclusivity”.
Continuing he said; “We believe that the learning from this initiative will inform inclusive policy and practice at third level in the future locally, nationally and internationally”. He concluded by paying tribute to the programmes partners, the Brothers of Charity in Ennis, Enable Ireland in Limerick, St. Cronan’s Association Ltd., and St. Joseph’s Foundation.
Commenting on behalf of the JP McManus Benevolent Fund, Ms. Sue Ann Foley, Chairperson, said;“We are delighted to support such a wonderful initiative like CGLPD. A programme like this serves to benefit not only the students and their families, but the wider community involved. Supporting educational initiatives is an important criteria for the Fund and we look forward to monitoring the progress of those involved.”
Although further philanthropic funding will be required to fully meet the resource requirements of the CGLPD programme the College is confident it will secure the necessary funds and the programme will continue as planned with the next intake commencing in September 2015.
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